Lawmakers OK measure to provide driver’s licenses to immigrants

SACRAMENTO--A bill that would allow people in the country illegally to get a driver’s license cleared its final legislative hurdle Thursday night and is on its way to the governor.

The measure would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a license to a qualified driver even if that person cannot provide proof of citizenship.

“We’ve had far too many families that have been divided, far too many workers that have been deported for not having something so basic, so simple as a driver’s license,” said its author, Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville).

The 55-19 Assembly vote capped off a roller-coaster day for the measure, which had been shelved for the year. Sens. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) resurrected the bill on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon. Alejo initially indicated he’d keep the bill on hold, but it ultimately came to the Assembly floor later that night.

The proposal had faced some opposition from some on the left, who objected to the distinctive marks on the license that would effectively designate the license holder as a noncitizen.


Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said she supported the measure “with a heavy heart.”

She said she empathized with advocates who wanted “every person in California to have the same license as anyone else.”

“I understand there will be people in my community will be very upset that I was not able to say no to something that is not perfect,” Gonzalez said.

Soon after the bill passed, Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement praising the bill as “enabling millions of people to get to work safely and legally.”

“Hopefully, it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due,” Brown added.


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